May 8, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

All UK companies with at least 250 employees working in the UK faced a mandate by the British government: Disclose all discrepancies in pay between male and female employees by April 4 or be slapped with unspecified fines and sanctions by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

So now that the numbers are in, how are UK law firms stacking up? That depends on how you look at the numbers.

Gaming the System?

On the surface, the gender pay gap for the UK’s largest law firms by revenue was relatively admirable. At just 20 percent, it painted a much more positive picture than the greater than 40 percent gap revealed in the banking industry.

However, these figures don’t present the true picture, according to The American Lawyer. Why not? Because the firms had left out their best-paid tier -- their partners -- from the data.

Said UK Liberal Democrats party leader Vince Cable, “They’re gaming the system, and it’s the loophole, and it needs to be closed. It is simple unacceptable. Companies like that have absolutely no justification.”

And that’s not where the issue ends. In addition to omitting partner compensation, many UK firms also declined to report data from their US offices, according to the ABA Journal.

Planning for Change

Why does having the correct figures matter so much? Law firm consultant Lauren Stiller Rikleen of the Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership told The American Lawyer“The transparency is needed in order to have firms understand the extent of the challenges they have in their own organization. If you don’t know it, you can’t fix it. That’s the bottom line.”

The bright spot? While reporting on partner pay wasn’t part of the regulatory requirements, some firms did so anyway.

Among those firms planning to use all of the data -- including partner information -- toward the greater good? Norton Rose Fulbright. Chair-elect Farmida Bi said in a statement, “Although it is not a statutory requirement to report on partner data, we wanted to be open and transparent with our people. This transparency will help us to continue our work in improving diversity across the business.”

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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